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My Country--Michigan

Robert E. Lee told Lincoln, when asked to take command of the army at the beginning of the Civil War, that he couldn't choose to fight against his country. He was talking about Virginia. Perhaps it's time to think that way again.

Oh, where to begin? So many natives trashing the state of our state. On an assignment for my creative writing class one of my students wrote that she hopes to leave Michigan for good. Now there could be some personal baggage she wants to get away from, but so many people talk about leaving because of the economy, the climate, the cultural life, whatever excuse they want to make. Many of those excuses are legitimate--I mean, you can't live where you can't work, unless you choose to be indigent or suck the state's teat.

OK, strip away the economic reasons. Why leave Michigan? Or turn it around: why stay? I don't know about you (the two people that visit this blog) but I've Lake Superior coursing the vascular tunnels in my body. I've the sweetness of white pine tarred to that olfactory factory in my brain. The crunch of Lake Michigan sand sticks to foot-bottoms. How can I leave her? The pleasant peninsulas with the small-minded, big-hearted, underdogs of the Rust-Belt. Sweet honeycrisp apples and cider in September, a plateful of fried lake perch in July. Land of Odawa and Cass, Schoolcraft and Jesuits, Pontiac the rebel and Henry Ford. Marquette and Cadillac--men and cities. Maize and Blue, green and white, Tigers, Red Wings and microbrews.
I've been to Maine (loved it) and New Mexico (ditto) but there's no place like being only 85 miles (at the most) from the HOMES (OK, not the O--Lake Ontario).
I'm going to leave it at that right now, because I want to make a more cogent plea for Michigan localism. Anyway, why would/will you stay in Michigan? Why would you be a rootless modern and leave?


Anonymous said…
Scot, not much to add to all your reasons to stay in Michigan but, for me, I end up coming back to the notion of "home." I often want to move somewhere (NYC or Boston or North Carolina primarily), however, I've been fortunate to travel a lot throughout the U.S. and I always find myself looking forward to returning home to Michigan.
Scot said…
Home is as good a reason as any to stay, DDH. However, for too many people I think, "home" is wherever you are--there is no sense of rootedness. As crazy as it may sound, but I feel as if the St. Ignace Mission founded by Marquette and Pontiac's rebellion and the copper and iron ore rushes, Henry Ford's assembly line, the Motown sound, these are all as much a part of my history as the story of the Polish immigrants who were my maternal great-grandparents. To leave that, for all but the most extreme reasons, is to turn my back on my familial history.
AnDyC said…

What holds me to Michigan is the people in my life. I do think Michigan has as much to offer any other state in terms of recreation and beauty, maybe more. Michiganders are not alone in their restless pursuit of a "better life," and I agree with you that they are restless for the wrong reasons: like a a girl who has dreams of being a dancer and runs away to Vegas. In our growing technological age, I think the sociological idea of community has changed. It is not cub scouts, PTA's, bridge club, parades, church socials, and neighborhood kids playing pick-up baseball. People also live in one location and go to church, work, and hang out in other places. I also think that psychologically, people are less "able" to commit themselves to people, ideas, and institutions. So leaving Redford or Michigan is as easy as air leaving a hole in a tire.

Nice blog. Appreciate your thoughts. I am also a fan of Luci Shaw... my wife has met her. Have you read, "God in the Dark?"


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